Where have these past two years gone? We have completed two whole journeys around the sun. The same sun which has risen on 730 mornings and set again in the evening since 13 March 2020. The very day when I closed the door on the outside world.
As the sun sinks this evening, I reflect on this day two years ago. I was on my way home from work, with my laptop and some hastily grabbed papers as I was expecting to be working from home for the following couple of weeks with Covid closing in on us. It was just over a week before the spring equinox, the sky was a translucent blue in the fading daylight as I made my way from the bus stop to my front door.
I was not long home before my phone rang. I remember that family conversation so clearly, the deep fear of the virus which was already tightening its grip around us meaning that I began my isolation a few days before the authorities formally closed our doors. That is not new, I have reflected on this before.
As I wrote in April 2020 – “I arrived home from work … having agreed that afternoon that I would work from home from then on to reduce risk while travelling to work on busy buses. I picked up a couple of items from the shop on my way home. Excellent stocking up – a jar of red pesto, a small packet of macaroni and some miso soups. I had no idea when I shut the front door, that I would not be leaving again for the foreseeable future. Family conversations that evening were frank and sobering. We talked through the risks that I faced. Age and underlying health conditions meant that I would not fare well if I contracted COVID-19. Additionally, as the pandemic took hold, the health service would be placed under extreme pressure to accommodate very ill patients. We realised at that point that I should immediately self isolate. And so, on Friday 13 March, I closed my doors to the outside world... Life has been transferred predominantly online. I have FaceTime, Zoom and Skype chats in the evening with friends, sometimes in small groups. Our Book Club and Writing Group now meet online. But even though life is continuing, it has been changed irrevocably. We don’t know when it will settle and resume and in particular, we don’t know what the new world will look like when it does settle.“
There was such uncertainty ahead. But on reflection I realise that did have some expectations. We had expectations that if we did catch Covid, then we would have some immunity in those very early days. There was a great deal of talk about vaccines taking time, but we had unquestionable confidence that we would see a vaccine at some point and that it would be the solution. I held the expectation that catching Covid would be almost certainly dire with my underlying and chronic health conditions. Another expectation was that as case numbers rose, they would surely fall as the peak of infections passed. However, the current case numbers are very high considering over two years have passed of the pandemic.
So it is strange to look back over the past two years which have both flown and dragged by, and look at how those expectations have measured up. Some have been surpassed, and some have surprised us. The vaccine has been a massive game changer, for those have access to them. While the global situation is one which is urgent and overlooked by too many, I am in that fortunate position to have had both doses, plus the booster. But aside that is the question of immunity. Not being an expert in this area, I have been shaken by the evolving realisation that immunity fades after infection, and also after the vaccines. Now we understand that the benefit of the vaccine is far more on reducing the severity of disease rather than transmission. Also, in those very early days, the variants had not appeared on our radars. Our expectations of new variants and mutations of the virus, with the unknown of how severe and transmissible these would be had yet to form.
Many of these expectations, I had not really acknowledged but they nestled in my mind. It is only when I pause at a milestone such as today, that I realise that I held so many.
When I wake tomorrow morning, on the first day of a third year since I closed my door, I will focus my expectations on the sunrises and sunsets and the spring growth in front of my eyes.